Steve Golin, Oscar-winning producer of ‘Spotlight,’ dies at 64

Producer Steve Golin at an Academy Awards event in February 2017.
Producer Steve Golin at an Academy Awards event in February 2017.
(Chris Delmas / AFP / Getty Images)

Producer Steve Golin, who won an Oscar for the 2015 newspaper drama “Spotlight” and whose keen eye for talent helped launch the filmmaking careers of directors such as David Fincher, Spike Jonze and Michael Bay, died Sunday in Los Angeles at age 64.

The prolific Golin, who left an indelible mark on both the independent film and television worlds, had been battling cancer, according to his representatives.

For the record:

8:25 p.m. April 23, 2019A previous version of this article said Steve Golin won an Oscar for “The Revenant.” He won it for “Spotlight.”

“We are devastated by Steve’s passing,” Golin’s partners at Anonymous Content, the management company he founded and of which he was chief executive, wrote in a statement. “He was a trailblazer in the industry, a devoted colleague, a remarkable leader and a truly kind man. He was a rare individual who encompassed intense creativity with a keen business mind.”

Golin received three best picture nominations for producing “Babel,” “The Revenant” and “Spotlight,” the latter two of which were nominated the same year. His other credits include such films as David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart,” Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and last year’s gay-conversion drama, “Boy Erased.” He earned three Emmy nominations for his television work, which included the series “True Detective,” “Mr. Robot” and “13 Reasons Why.”


Golin had a reputation as a strong supporter of filmmakers, with impeccable taste and a willingness to take chances where others might fear to tread. When Jonze brought Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay for “Being John Malkovich” — a bizarro, un-categorizable tale about a puppeteer who finds a portal that leads into Malkovich’s mind, that no studio executive was eager to make — to Golin, he was so thrilled by its originality that he went to Polygram chief Michael Kuhn and gave him the hard sell.

“I totally hustled him,” Golin told The Times in 2004. “Michael kept saying, ‘I’m never making this movie,’ and I kept saying, ‘Oh, yes you are.’”

In the end, “Being John Malkovich” proved a cult hit and earned three Oscar nominations, including director and original screenplay.

On Twitter, director Edgar Wright called Golin “a champion of diverting, cutting edge cinema,” while the Black List founder Franklin Leonard praised him as “an ally to storytellers in Hollywood.”

“I was proud to call Steve a friend and a partner,” Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and a board member at Anonymous Content, said in a statement. “I admired him greatly. His talent and kindness inspired me, and everyone around him.”

Golin began his career in the mid-1980s when, along with fellow American Film Institute alum Joni Sighvatsson, he produced the straight-to-video films “Hard Rock Zombies” and “American Drive-In.” In 1986, the two launched Propaganda Films, which, at the height of the MTV era quickly established itself as a powerhouse in music videos and commercials. It was there that Golin helped discover and nurture such future filmmakers as Jonze, Fincher, Bay and Antoine Fuqua.

In 1999, after selling Propaganda Films, Golin founded Anonymous Content, building an impressive roster of talent including filmmakers Steven Soderbergh, Alfonso Cuarón and Cary Fukunaga, and actors such as Emma Stone, Mahershala Ali, Winona Ryder and Samuel L. Jackson.

In risk-averse Hollywood, Golin knew that his passion for originality didn’t always make for the easiest path. But the producer, who survived a rare form of bone cancer in the early 2000s that led to the loss of his shoulder blade, wasn’t one to give up easily.


“I admire producers like Saul Zaentz and Scott Rudin, because I think we’re alike — we have to make movies we care about,” he told The Times. “But getting them made is tough.

“You have to be thick-skinned because you get kicked in the teeth so many times,” he continued. “It’s like another great producer, David Brown, always said: ‘No matter how successful you become, you’re always Willy Loman.’”

Golin is survived by his two children, Anna and Ari; his stepdaughter Blue; his longtime life partner Violaine Etienne; brother Larry Golin; sister Susan Dickson; and former wife Vilborg Aradottir Golin.


Twitter: @joshrottenberg